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The First Image

The ultrasound technician’s room is dark and crowded. There are only the three of us, yet we barely fit amongst her furniture and machines. Soft music flows from a radio, which is almost completely disguised on her desk crowded of papers, her purse, and electronics. Emerging from the center of the darkness, a soft glow shines from her computer screen, lighting Jason’s face in a faintly blue hue. I imagine my face looks the same. I hop on the small exam table which fills any space left in the room. It’s hard to keep the germ protection paper in place as it slides around under my legs. I pull at one side, crinkle it, rip it, and decide to let it be. Loud crunching fills my ears as I lie back on the paper-covered pillow. I glance over to Jason to see if he is having more luck getting comfortable than I. He looks awkwardly around the room, seeing the technician’s desk chair and one other small chair tucked in a corner. His hands full with both our jackets and my purse, Jason attempts to sit somewhere, but ends up half-standing. As the technician follows us into the room, her curly hair bounces in the dim light. She offers no guidance to ease our seating confusion.

“I’ll going to use this wand on your stomach to get some images of the baby,” she offers. “We can verify your due date, and take some initial measurements. I just need to you pull up your shirt a bit, and I’ll put some protective paper over your clothes to keep the gel off of them as much as possible.”

My difficulty in maintaining excitement about baby endures. I hope this changes soon so I can learn to enjoy the pregnancy. I want to feel nothing but love and excitement. I’ve read the mother’s emotions can affect the growth of the fetus, and I don’t want the baby to feel my fear and anxiety. It amazes me that my emotions can be detrimental to this tiny being, and I don’t even know what exactly that means. Will I stunt the baby’s growth? Will the baby have some oddball, neurotic, Woody Allen-esque personality type? I try and push Woody Allen out of my head, forcing thoughts of zen, yet I can’t change how I feel, the chaos brewing inside. Being my first ultrasound ever, I worry about what it will be like, how it will feel, what we will see. I’m on a bad cycle: I worry about worrying because I know stress is bad for baby, and that makes me worry more. I really hope this ultrasound will be the end of this distress, spawning a new beginning for this baby and me.

I have a general idea of what this machine can do from watching medical shows on TV, but it doesn’t prepare me for the sometimes cold, sometimes too hot, gel squirted onto my stomach. The touch of the wand is initially gentle. When she hit the lower right side of my abdomen, it is pressure-filled and painful. It’s a knife piercing my skin, possible a kidney. I keep this to myself, swallowing the pain.

“I see the little peanut right here.” The wand swirls around my slippery skin, allowing light and dark to flicker on the screen. Her gaze never leaves the screen. Whatever we are looking at, it looks alien.  “How far along are you?”

 “I was told I was 8 weeks. My due date is May 2.”

The curly-haired technician scoots closer to the screen. She remains silent for several minutes. Something feels wrong, the silence looming and uncomfortable. Why is she not responding to my remarks on the due date? My nerves react to the silence; my hands are sweaty, my breathing becomes heavy. My neck is strained up and to the side to try in every effort to keep my eyes on the screen. I cannot hold my neck in such a way, and I allow myself to lie back every few seconds before straining again.  Desperation demands I figure out what we are looking at. I don’t want to stop staring at the screen. I don’t want to miss anything.

 Even though I swear curly-haired technician had the baby on the screen a few minutes ago, she states, “I’m having some trouble seeing the baby since it is so small. To me, it seems like you aren’t quite that far along. I may have to switch to the intravaginal wand to get a better look.”

This wand is even scarier than the first, and I am not thrilled with the prospect of her using it. Crazy thoughts are racing; What on Earth she does with that? This is our only option to find our baby, so I relent, lay back, and try to unclench my tense muscles. To my great relief, she finds the baby quickly. The baby’s heartbeat is recorded at 140 beats per minute.

The curly-haired technician’s shoulders drop, releases her gaze from the screen, scoots her stool away, seeming more at ease along with us. Her intensity is broken. “A heartbeat over 100 bpm is a good sign at this stage.” With this information, I try to take a deep breath, releasing my still lungs from holding my breath hostage. With the gush of air, all concern washes out of the room. The technician adjusts my due date to May 17. From my appointment a couple days earlier, nurse practitioner Monica had said a change in due date was unlikely. I knew that paper wheel was ridiculous.

“Why is this change is so drastic?” I ask the curly-haired technician. “That’s a big difference.”

Despite my concern, she seems unphased. “Sometimes women with irregular cycles have a harder time estimating due dates. We can get it pretty accurate with the ultrasound.”  My gut feels queasy processing this conflicting information about our baby, yet I accept this explanation will have to suffice. I am in uncharted territory, and the curly-haired technician sees this daily. Pushing my uneasiness aside, I let the thoughts flow out of my head, disappearing into the darkness of the room. If she says it’s normal, I will do my best to believe her.

All this time, I forget to see what Jason is doing. He holds my hand, alternating between standing and sitting, possibly because of his awkward seating situation, possibly because he wants a closer look. Taking my eyes from the screen, I glance to my left and see Jason smile slightly toward me. He looks relieved, calm. I’m glad he is there. Now I am glad we get to leave this dark place together.

Walking through the twisted hallways, there are several other pregnant ladies at various intervals on our way out, all at different stages in this process. We may only be at the beginning stage of this process, yet with this passage I sense the camaraderie in the air. A sense of pride grows deep down. I have passed our initiation into this sorority.

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